Latest News for February 12, 2003
Edited by Jeff Jones
Shorter but tougher Tour of Flanders
By Jeff Jones in Gent
The parcours for the 87th Ronde Van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders) has been announced by the organisers. The World Cup classic will take place on April 6 this year, two weeks after Milan-San Remo. At 255 km, the Ronde will be 10 km shorter than last year, but the addition of three climbs for a record total of 19, combined with 22 km of cobble sections should more than make up for that.
As has been the case for the last few years, the race will begin in Brugge's Grote Markt and finish in Meerbeke, Ninove. The first part of the parcours this year is markedly different than the last two years however. Instead of heading west to Oostende and the west coast of Flanders, the race will travel east via Maldegem, Eeklo and Waarschoot, before turning south towards the hills. The difference in terrain in this first part will be negligible, as Flanders is pan flat whether you go west or east. The wind will of course be coming from the opposite direction.
Once the Ronde reaches Kanegem (55 km), it follows a similar route as last year through Dentergem, Waregem, Kruishoutem, Zwalm and Zottegem. The first hill (Nokereberg, km 89) comes on this section, but it's not until after Zottegem that the hill action becomes more intense. The steep, roughly cobbled Molenberg (127 km) will start to draw out the peloton, followed by the Wolvenberg 10 km later.
There is a 24 km respite before the next climb of Kluisberg (km 161), and then the Ronde follows its traditional zig-zag course over the narrow back roads of this area. The remaining hills are the Knokteberg (km 170), Oude-Kwaremont (km 177), Paterberg (km 180), Koppenberg (km 187), Steenbeekdries (km 192), Taaienberg (km 195), Ladeuze (km 199), Boigneberg (km 204), Foreest (km 211), Steenberg (km 213), Leberg (km 220), Berendries (km 223), Tenbosse (km 229), Muur-Kapelmuur (239) and Bosberg (km 242).
The main changes from the previous editions come after the Taaienberg (climb 10), as the Eikenberg/Kapelleberg climbs have been replaced by Ladeuze, Boigneberg, Foreest and Steenberg climbs, meaning that the peloton will have less chance to regroup in this important stage of the race. Foreest and Ladeuze are brand new climbs, while the Boigneberg has only been used once previously.
The final five climbs remain intact, and the crowds on the Muur and the Bosberg will be able to see their heroes charging by in pursuit of victory.
As a whole, the parcours of the Ronde Van Vlaanderen looks to be one of the most selective yet, and rider performances in the early season Belgian races in March will be closely watched.
30th Tour Méditerranéen
By Jeff Jones
The Tour Méditerranéen has been making headlines this week for different reasons during the lead up to this five day French stage race that runs from February 12-16. Following Mario Cipollini's announcement to withdraw from the race at the last moment, controversy ensued when his Domina-Vacanze Elitron team was subsequently thrown out of the race. However, although justifiably annoyed, the organisers were not allowed to do this to the team and Domina Vacanze was reinstated, sans Cipollini, late on Tuesday.
Last year, Cipollini won a stage in the otherwise Fassa Bortolo dominated Tour of Med, and that was followed up by a stage win from his teammate and leadout man Giovanni Lombardi. Neither Lombardi nor Cipollini are part of the Domina Vacanze line up this year, so wins in bunch sprints will be virtually impossible for the team.
The parcours of the 30th edition of this race is interesting for several reasons. Split into six stages over five days, none of the stages measures over 114 km - comparatively shorter than any stage races at this time of year.
The first stage, starting and finishing in Arma Di Taggia, takes place on Italian soil and includes the famous Poggio climb. However unlike Milan-San Remo, the Poggio doesn't come at the end of a 290 km race, being placed just 12 km into the first stage and unlikely to have an effect on the result. The first stage does include the climbs of Torrima (437m, km 59) and San Bartolomeo (630 m, km 69), which might prove decisive, but after a 35 km flat run into the finish, a bunch sprint looks likely.
The riders will be back in France for stage 2, Menton - Le Cannet (109 km), and this should be a picturesque stage with the climbs of La Turbie (465m, km 9) and Aspremont (515m, km 32.5) in the Alpes Maritimes. The generally lumpy parcours could see a breakaway succeed in making it to Cannes with 8 km to go, staying away to contest the uphill finish in Le Cannet.
The riders won't have much time for any relaxation on Valentine's Day, February 14, as they have to tackle two stages today. The first is a 60 km run from Seillans to La Motte, with a 283m climb towards the end of the stage with 5 km to go. This will serve as preparation for the afternoon's fourth stage, from La Motte to Toulon, Mont Faron. The latter is traditionally the decisive stage in the Tour of Med, with the 10 km ascent of Mont Faron (544m) raced flat out.
Stage 5 from La Garde to Berre l'Etang on February 15 is a fairly standard sprinters stage, despite a long climb at the start up to Mauzaugues (480m, km 24). The stage length is 114 km, making it the longest single stage in this year's race.
The finale from Gemenos to Marseille is an interesting twist in the tail of the Tour of Med, being run as a team time trial over 42 km with a couple of 300m climbs. The TTT was held first up last year, but having it at the end of the race could certainly change the GC on the final day.
With a big representation from the Division I teams, it's always hard to pick the favourites for this race. Last year Fassa Bortolo dominated, with Michele Bartoli winning atop Mont Faron and reclaiming the lead from his teammate Alessandro Petacchi. This year, Ferretti's squad does not contain Petacchi or Bartoli, but will probably rely on Fabian Cancellara and perhaps Kim Kirchen for the hillier stages.
Others to look for on GC include Quick Step's Richard Virenque and Paolo Bettini, Phonak's Oscar Camenzind, Team Coast's Angel Casero and Alex Zülle, Lotto-Domo's Rik Verbrugghe, Saeco's Mirko Celestino and Gilberto Simoni, De Nardi's Serguei Gontchar, La Boulangère's Didier Rous, Cofidis' David Millar and David Moncoutié, Ag2r's Andy Flickinger and Laurent Brochard, CSC's Lennie Kristensen, and Rabobank's Michael Boogerd and Levi Leipheimer.
In the sprints, Robbie McEwen (Lotto-Domo), Baden Cooke (FDJeux.com), Giovanni Lombardi (Domina Vacanze), Ivan Quaranta (Saeco), Filippo Pozzato (Fassa Bortolo), Massimo Strazzer (Phonak), Jo Planckaert (Cofidis) and Tony Cruz (USPS) will all show their condition.
Fassa Bortolo, Domina Vacanze-Elitron, Quick Step-Davitamon, Lotto-Domo, Cofidis, Saeco, Team Coast, US Postal Service presented by Berry Floor, Rabobank, Crédit Agricole, Ag2r, Phonak Hearing Systems, FDJeux.com, Brioches La Boulangère, Team CSC, Jean Delatour, De Nardi-Colpack, MBK-Oktos, BigMat.
Stage 1 - February 12: Arma Di Taggia - Arma Di Taggia, 112 km
Dekker could miss early season classics again
Erik Dekker (Rabobank) has given himself two days to be able to ride "without pain" in his right knee, or he will forgo the Ruta del Sol (February 16-20). "And that means I can forget the early season," he told De Telegraaf. "In this race I have to race hard so that I get the kilometres in my legs. Without this preparation, I can't see anything for me in the classics."
Although Dekker has worked hard over winter to balance the strength in his left leg (broken last year in Milan-San Remo) with his right, he has not been able to ride for more than 150 km on the bike. His early season has already been compromised, and he could find himself in a similar position to last year when he sat on the sidelines after Milan-San Remo.
Pantani gets ready
By João Cravo
Although his future as a rider seems to depend on the Court of Arbitration for Sport for the moment, Marco Pantani is still preparing for 2003 as best he can, in the relative quiet of the Canary Islands. He is there in the company of his teammates Fabiano Fontanelli, Roberto Conti and Daniel Clavero, where he hopes to lay the groundwork for a good season.
Marco Pantani now seems conscious that his hey days are well behind him, only few weeks after his public announcement of his dream of defy and beat Lance Armstrong in the mountains of France.
"The great Pantani I am sure will never come back," he told L'Equipe. "But I will not sit and wait. I will now approach my work in a different manner, so that I will get back my inner calm."
He appears now to accept that his future in the professional peloton might well bring him more struggle than glory, more sweat than champagne. But he hasn't given up riding, and will try to once more attack the climbs in his own captivating style.
Next Saturday February 15, the Mercatone Uno-Scanavino team will be presented. Will the world see a new Marco Pantani after that?
Chiappucci contradicts himself
In the latest installment of the Dr Michele Ferrari trial in Bologna, Italian ex-pro Claudio Chiappucci has contradicted his previous testimony with regard to the products he was given by Dr Ferrari.
The Italian doctor is on trial for allegedly supplying a number of athletes, including cyclists, with forbidden products in the early 1990's. The prosecutor in Bologna is especially interested in the asterisks next to riders names in files seized from Dr Ferrari. He believes that the asterisks represented forbidden products such as EPO, and at least one rider (Filippo Simeoni) has testified that this was the case.
When interviewed by the NAS five years ago, Claudio Chiappucci said that Dr Ferrari had given him lozenges to help his breathing. In his latest interrogation in Bologna, which lasted for nearly three hours, Chiappucci said that the products were amino acids. The reason for changing his story, he said, was that he had not really been able to think about what to say when the NAS interviewed him in 1998.
The next edition of the trial will be on April 15-16.
Stephen Pate falls foul of the law
Retired Australian track sprinter and past World Champion Stephen Pate remains in custody on assault charges, after breaking a restraining order and threatening his wife last Monday, according to a report in the Herald Sun.
Pate was first arrested in November 2002 when his wife, Joanne, complained to the police about his behaviour towards her. She accused him of intentionally causing serious injury and false imprisonment, after he punched and kicked her outside his home in East Bentleigh. He was released on bail at the time, but returned soon after and threatened her with a knife.
The police placed him custody again, and again he was freed on bail, on condition that he did not contact his wife and did not approach within 200m of their home. However on Monday and Tuesday this week he called her and threatened her.
Pate has been put behind bars until later this month, when the Melbourne Magistrates' Court will hear his case.
Hamilton raises money for MS
Tyler Hamilton (CSC) has announced a series of tours in the New England region for 2003 to help raise money for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Central New England Chapter. Hamilton has been involved with the charity since 1996, and says that it has been an "inspiring experience for me."
"Through a series of fund raising and training rides organized by the MS Society, I've been able to meet an incredibly motivated and selfless circle of cyclists," said Hamilton in the official announcement. "They are an eclectic bunch, involved with the MS Society, and riding to raise money, for various reasons. Some of them have MS. Some of them know people with MS. And some of them just like to ride their bikes and think raising money for a good cause while doing so is a pretty good thing. I couldn't agree more."
"Their enthusiasm for the cause they're supporting and for the sport of cycling is as contagious as it is uplifting. There are those that defy MS every day by continuing to ride. And others ride to raise money for a cure. Every cyclist I've met through the MS Society has inspired me through their collective show of strength, perseverance and selflessness. And what's more, they all seem to be having a lot of fun. I can't think of a more complete experience."
The tours are as follows:
MS Global 2003: September 28-October 5, 2003
Hamilton will be riding in the MS Global event, which takes place in September/October around Lake Geneva, including some of the stages of the Tour de France.
For more information, see National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Central New England Chapter, Inside Track Tours and www.tylerhamilton.com
(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2003)